Young People's Christian Union

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James Tillinghast was founder of the Universalist Union which became the organ of the YPCU (the Universalist' Young People's Christian Union).

Taken from The Columbian Congress of the Universalist Church: Papers and Addresses at the Congress, held as a Section of the World's Congress Auxiliary of the Columbian Exposition, 1893.


ONE of the most important events that has occurred in the Universalist church for the past fifty years was the formation of the Young People's Christian Union.

The fault with the Universalist church of the past was its lack of interest in the young people and its consequent inability to retain them within its folds. Realizing this weakness, the General Convention in the autumn of 1886 established the Young People's Missionary Association, with the object of interesting the young people in raising money for the general church work. About sixty societies were formed, and did their part in educating for the Y. P. C. U. movement, but were only partial successes, because they were not the spontaneous outgrowth of the young people.

The first distinctively religious societies of the young people of the Universalist church were in the State of New York, where Young People's Societies of Christian Endeavor were organized at Rochester, Victor, Troy and other places, followed by the formation of


the Western New York Y. P. S. of C. E. Association. It is true that prior to this time there were many young people's societies in our church, but none whose avowed work was spiritual. The Y. P. C. U. is a lineal descendant of the Y. P. S. of C. E. and not of the Y. P. M. A. or any kindred society.

In the latter part of 1888 Rev. S. H. Roblin, then pastor of the Universalist church at Bay City, Mich., took steps toward forming a young people's devotional society, by appointing Mr. Alfred J. Cardall to take charge of it. A society was formed with Mr. Cardall as president. The society was a success from the start, although it was hard to educate the young people to that way of being religious; but finally they caught the spirit of it, and the spirit grew as they took up practical philanthropic work Connected with the society from its inception was Mr A. C. Grier, principal of the Bay City schools. He is the father of the movement that culminated in the formation of the National Young People's Christian Union at Lynn, Mass. To his push, executive ability and untiring zeal, aided by his earnest ready and willing co-laborers in the Bay City society, is due our national movement. He is now a minister of our church and was recently elected a member of the Executive Board of the National Union.

The success of the Bay City society was so gratifying, and its members were so impressed with its value, that they began to wish that every church in our denomination might have such a society.

Rev. Mr. Roblin having suggested that a national organization be formed, a committee of five, with Mr. Grier as chairman, was appointed to correspond with all the Universalist churches in the United States and


Canada, proposing the organization of a national society.

February 22, 1889, the committee prepared and mailed to every Universalist minister a circular containing important questions and stating objects A second circular was issued in June of the same year, which included a call for a convention to be held the day before the General Convention at Lynn, Mass., in the following October. Soon after this circular was issued, Mr. Grier was obliged to resign his position in the schools, drop his church work and go West on account of his health, which had been broken down by overwork. But the work that he had so nobly carried for- ward was left in good hands; as a result, the national organization will show.

The first national convention of the young people's religious societies connected with the Universalist church, began its session on the morning of Tuesday, October 22, 1889, in the vestry of the First Universalist church of Lynn. Rev. Dr. Pullman, pastor of the church, called the meeting to order, and Mr. Lee E. Joslyn, of Bay City, was made temporary chairman, with Miss N. Jenison, of Lynn, temporary secretary.

About 140 delegates were present, representing thirteen states and nearly fifty societies. Our present constitution was adopted; the name, "The Young People's Christian Union of the Universalist Church," chosen, and the following officers elected for one year:

President, Lee E. Joslyn, Bay City, Mich.; Secre- tary, James D. Tillinghast, Buffalo, N. Y.; Treasurer, Miss N. Jenison, Lynn, Mass.; Executive Board, J. Thomas Moore, Philadelphia, Penn.; Miss Clara B. Adams, Lynn, Mass.; Miss Angie M. Brooks, Portland, Me., and Miss Belle Gibson, Chicago, 111.


The Universalist Union, issued November, 1887, as a parish paper for western New York, by Rev. L. B. Fisher, of Rochester, continued .after a few issues by Rev, J. F. Leland, of Victor, and in August, 1889, passing into the hands of Mr. James D. Tillinghast, of Buffalo, was adopted as the official organ of the National Union. This paper is still the official organ of the National Y. P, C. U., with Mr. Tillinghast as editor. It has been and is one of the greatest factors in the upbuilding of the National Union.

The newly organized union, by committee, notified the General Convention of its formation and submitted its constitution and by-laws, which were approved. October 23, by resolution, the National Union pledged loyalty to the General Convention. During the first year copies of the constitution were printed and distributed; a model constitution for local unions prepared, topics for devotional meetings selected, vice presidents over seventeen states appointed by President Joslyn, and the general work of organization of local and state unions pushed forward.

The first annual convention of the National Union was held in the First Universalist church of Rochester, N. Y., October 20, 21, 1890. The greeting of the convention was telegraphed to the state Y. P. S. of C. E., of New York, in convention assembled at Buffalo; a resolution, commending the methods of work of the Y. P. S. of C. E. and urging the establishment of a cordial feeling and Christian fellowship among the young people's organizations of all churches, and pledging the support and work to promote such relations, was adopted; a committee appointed to prepare a design for a pin and report to the Executive Board; words of cheer and greeting were sent to Missionary Perin, of

OUR YOUNG PEOPLE. 29I Japan, and a committee to prepare a course of denom- inational reading was appointed.

The officers and Executive Board, excepting Miss Gibson, whose place was filled by Miss Mary Grace Webb, now Mrs. Canfield, of Akron, O., were re-elected. It was at this convention that the movement which has established a Universalist church at Harriman, Tenn., was commenced.

The idea of building a Universalist church at Harriman originated with Henry L Canfield, D. D., State Superintendent of Churches and Sunday Schools of Ohio, and was suggested to C. Ellwood Nash, D. D., then pastor at Akron.

To Dr. Nash is due the credit of thebeginningandthe continuance of the work Through his efforts, two lots 50x190 feet each, in the choicest possible locality in the infant city of Harriman, were donated by the East Tennessee Land Company, $ 1,000 pledged by Mr. Ferdinand Schumacher of Akron, $555 by residents of Harriman and $445 by the directors of the East Ten- nessee Land Company, making $2,000 in all Then came the national convention of the Y. P C U., at Washington, Dr. Nash presenting the Harriman pro- ject.

The convention immediately instructed its officers to enter into a contract with the East Tennessee Land Company in behalf of the Y. P C. U., to build a Universalist church at Harriman to cost not less than $5,000; liberal subscriptions were pledged by the delegates present, and by vote, a committee with Dr. Nash as chairman, was appointed to take charge of the canvass for funds, and to secure a pastor for the coming church at the earliest possible date. The work for the coming year was pushed rapidly forward, eighteen states


were presided over by vice presidents, new unions were constantly being formed, and the Harriman work was taken up with a vigor.

The second annual convention was held in Unity church, (Unitarian,) Cleveland, O., August 18, 19 and 20, 1891. The officers and executive committee were re-elected, a committee to prepare a Y. P. C.U , song and service book appointed, and the Harriman committee continued. This committee reported that contract had been entered into with Rev W H. McGlauflin, of Rochester, Minn., to become the missionary in charge, that funds nearly sufficient for the first year's salary and the church building had been pledged; the balance was subscribed by the delegates and friends present. Mr. McGlauflin went immediately from the Cleveland convention to Harriman and preached there his first sermon the last Sunday of August, 1891. A legal and business organization was perfected the following month, called "The First Universalist Society," and an efficient building committee appointed. A larger and better structure was erected than was at first proposed; the additional money required being subscribed by members of the Harriman congregation. The corner stone of the building was laid December 2, 1891, and the church was formally opened for public worship on Easter Sunday, April 17, 1892. The sermon was preached by Dr. H. L. Canfield.

This handsome temple, which contains a parish house wherein the pastor and wife reside, is, including the grounds upon which it stands, worth at least $10,000. Thus far the church has never been closed on Sunday, and the purpose is that its doors shall on that day be always open for divine worship.


There is a local Y. P. C. U., Junior Union, Sunday school, (with 85 members,) and Woman's Missionary Alliance.

The church organization proper was completed on Y P. C. U. day, Sunday, January 30, 1892, when thirty-four names were entered, and twenty-three persons were present and received from the pastor formal welcome of fellowship. The number of communicants received up to July, 1893, is seventy.

The Harriman church is becoming firmly established, has in its membership and congregation much of the best brain and heart of the community, engages largely in local charitablework, is already a disseminator of the gospel of love in adjacent towns, where Mr. McGlauflin frequently holds meetings, and history may yet record that this, the first Y. P. C. U. mission, has itself become "a mother of churches."

The committee to prepare a design for a pin had during the year reported to the Executive Board, and the pins were placed on sale at the Cleveland convention.

During 1891-92, twenty-one vice-presidents were appointed, the membership of the National Union was increased, more societies adopted the name of the Y P C. U and the work along all lines showed a decided advance.

October II, 12 and 13, 1892, the third annual convention was held in the First Universalist church at Reading, Penn. The report of the Harriman church, given by Mr. McGlauflin, showed that more funds were needed to meet past obligations and for the coming year's work. Over $1,000 was pledged for this pur- pose. A committee was appointed to secure from the Universalist Publishing House the publication of a


young people's paper, or to take other necessary steps to issue such a paper.

Upon recommendation of the Executive Board, the convention voted to take steps toward placing in the field a National Organizer. Towards this object $1143 was pledged by the delegates present, and a committee appointed to proceed with the further canvass for funds, and select and place in the field such organ- izer. A National Union at Large was established and a Y. P. C. U. Entertainment Bureau and an Invalid's Correspondence Bureau were instituted.

The officers elected were: President, Herbert B. Briggs, Cleveland, O.; secretary, James D. Tillinghast, Tufts College, Mass.; treasurer, Miss N. Jenison, Lynn, Mass.; Executive Board, J. Thomas Moore, Philadelphia, Penn., Miss Angie M. Brooks, Portland, Me., Mrs. Mary Grace Canfield, Cincinnati, O., and Rev. A. C. Grier, Charles City, Ia.

Soon after the convention, Miss Jenison resigned as treasurer, and Miss Lizzie H. Goldthwaite, of Danvers, Mass., was appointed to the office by the Executive Board.

The National Union was incorporated April 22, 1893, under the laws of the state of Massachusetts. Twenty-four states and provinces in the United States and Canada are now presided over by vice presidents, 15 state organizations, those of Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin, and 240 local unions are members of the National Union, with an individual membership of over 12,000 persons. A steady increase in membership, and a more active and earnest interest in the cause, has characterized the work


of the past year. The name, "The Young People's Christian Union," is being adopted by a large majority of the young people's societies.

This, in brief, is the history of the Young People's Christian Union, from its birth to the present. Four years have shown a steady and healthy growth; the Universalist church has found in it an auxiliary organization of great strength and vigor, ever ready to assist when aid is asked The fondest dreams of the little band of workers in the Bay City church have been more than realized May the movement continue its growth, teaching the gospel of love, carrying ever the standard of the purest and best type of Christian man- hood and womanhood, and may "The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another."

[Prepared for this volume by Mr James D. Tillinghast, from a "Historical Souvenir," compiled by Rev. Carl F. Henry and Mr. Herbert B. Briggs.]

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